LAKE CHARLES – McNeese State's first trip to the postseason in four years didn't turn out as planned as the No. 6 national seed Cowboys dropped a 31-10 decision to Jacksonville State in Cowboy Stadium Saturday night to end the Cowboys' season.
"First I want to congratulate Jacksonville State," said head coach Matt Viator. "Their kids played hard and they deserved to win the game. I want to thank out seniors and the guys in the dressing room. There's not a dry eye in there. It's unfortunate that it ended that way but I want to thank them."
McNeese (10-3) never got into any kind of offensive rhythm on the night while quarterback Cody Stroud was sacked a total of 11 times, a single-game school record for JSU (11-3).
"It's hard to explain the game," said Viator. "I don't even know where to start. I thought we played hard but obviously didn't execute like we've done all season. It just didn't work our way."
Just like in 11 other games this season, the Cowboys fell behind early when JSU scored on a 19-yard pass from Eli Jenkins to Josh Barge one play after the Gamecocks intercepted a Stroud pass.
JSU got two more scores in the second quarter to take a 21-0 lead into the half.
The Cowboys only saw the JSU side of the field once in the second quarter and was forced into two 3-and-out situations. McNeese had just five first downs in the first half and just 75 yards. Southland Conference rushing leader Marcus Wiltz had just 28 yards rushing in the half.
For the game, Wiltz finished with 26 yards on 10 carries. Kelvin Bennett led the team with 70 yards on 10 carries. As a team McNeese finished with 301 yards of offense while JSU put up 383.
Stroud completed 18 of 40 passes for 255 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Diontae Spencer and Ernest Celestie each caught seven passes.
JSU racked up 263 of its yards on the ground as DaMarcus James had 127 yards on 24 carries and three touchdowns.
After falling behind 24-0 with 3:22 to play in the third quarter, McNeese got on the board for the first time after a 35-yard field goal by Ryan Rome to make it 24-3 with 1:15 to play.
Later in the fourth quarter, Stroud found Celestie from 10 yards out to cut the gap to 24-10 but the Gamecocks responded with a 9-play, 74-yard drive that took 5:36 off the clock and ended with a 3-yard touchdown run by James to make it 31-10.
The 2013 football season for McNeese State will go down as one of the greatest offensive seasons in school history with more than 25 school or individual records broken. The 10 wins marks just the eighth time in school history a McNeese team won 10 or more in the regular season.